After announcing that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the Grammy Award-winning singer, Glen Campbell, said he’d be going on the road for a farewell tour. A tour that will include the VanWezel Performing Arts Hall on Sunday, November 4.
Simply put, this extraordinary tour is a reflection of Glen Campbell’s life. It relfects the beauty, power, heartfelt emotion, and deep spirituality that traces the arc of Campbell’s 75 years: from dirt-poor, tiny-town Arkansas origins, to Hollywood triumphs on the pop charts, TV and movies. From barnstorming days of youthful touring to hobnobbing with Elvis, Sinatra and the Duke, he fought from troubled free-falls of addictions and bad life choices, to personal and spiritual redemption. It is all here, in his songs!
Campbell’s current live band includes three of his children — Ashley on banjo, Shannon on guitar, and Cal on drums. In his latest appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, “they eagerly helped steer the singer through the show. Ashley stepped out front for a duet with her dad on Dueling Banjos. Additionally, she and Shannon did one of their own songs while Campbell took a breather, but he continued on highlighting his major hits: Gentle On My Mind, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, Galveston , Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights. For The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress, a lesser-known gem from his long-running partnership with songwriter Jimmy Webb, he sang accompanied only by keyboardist, T.J. Kuenster. “Campbell seemed to be soaking up as much of the evening as he could. It was a truly heartfelt performance which moved the audience in ways seldom seen on any stage. It was a night that brought excitement, joy, and some tears as they gave him their unwavering support… paying their respect to the courage and heart of a great entertainer.”
When Campbell announced his disease at the Grammy Award program last June, the music world reacted with stunned surprise, but an interesting thing happened. Instead of fading into the sunset like a forgotten icon, he catapulted back into the spotlight–and the music industry cannot seem to shower him with enough accolades.
It’s not unusual for a public figure to reveal a diagnosis of the insidious disease. Former President Reagan told the world of his battle with Alzheimer’s in a poignant letter in 1994. Actor Charlton Heston disclosed, via a taped statement, that he was suffering from symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s. Peace Corps founder, Sargent Shriver’s 2003 diagnosis was also announced. Although Heston and Shriver later made occasional appearances–and the Ben Hur star gave an interview–those prominent men essentially exited the public stage. To quote Heston quoting Shakespeare in his statement, he bade farewell and “melted in air, into thin air.”
What’s extraordinary about the 75-year old Campbell is his intention not to “melt into air” but to stay in the spotlight and ask his fan’s indulgence. That decision is a milestone in the fight against Alzheimer’s, a disease that currently has no cure, affecting 5 million Americans and will only strike more as baby boomers age. Campbell’s tour is an opportunity to show not only how widespread this disease is, but that life goes on after one is diagnosed with it. Like Michael. J. Foxx, who has put a working actor’s face on living with Parkinson’s disease, Campbell can put a performer’s face on living with Alzheimer’s.